SBTC DR chaplain hotline: 1-800-921-3287; call volume increases amid coronavirus concerns

April 9th, 2020 / By: Jane Rodgers | TEXAN Correspondent / comments

SBTC DR chaplain hotline: 1-800-921-3287; call volume increases amid coronavirus concerns

The young man from the Rio Grande Valley who called the SBTC DR chaplain hotline last week said he needed help dealing with fear. The victim of a recent physical assault, he was afraid of contracting COVID-19.

He told chaplain Mike Flanagan that he had not been to church in many years.

Flanagan shared the gospel with the young man, asking him if he would like to pray to trust Christ with his life.

Without hesitation, the caller said, “Sure.”

“We prayed together and as soon as we were done, I recognized an immediate change in his voice,” Flanagan said. “Whereas before he sounded weak and afraid, now he spoke with confidence. It was like having a conversation with two different people, which, in reality, it was.”

To help people distressed by the coronavirus crisis like the young South Texas man, trained Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief chaplains like Flanagan are manning the toll-free hotline at 1-800-921-3287 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. daily, with voicemail available after hours.

The hotline began operations in March, but has seen a recent uptick in callers in April, said Gordon Knight, SBTC DR director of chaplains.

“Sadly, as long as this goes, the further we get into the crisis, the more calls we will get,” Knight told the TEXAN. 

Currently volunteers take turns fielding the calls, Knight said.

“Sometimes four walls can close in on you,” SBTC DR chaplain Brenda Jansen told Texarkana’s KTAL NBC 6 recently. 

“When people are going through a crisis, usually the question is ‘why me?’ So, we can take them to Scripture … read Psalms 46, or Psalm 91, or go to Proverbs,” Jansen said. 

“Some people think the Bible is old, but when they see that it’s the same thing happening from generation to generation, that gives them comfort,” Jansen said, adding that disasters cause many people to think about eternity.

“We all know that we’re all going to die someday, and so this gives them a chance to pause and think about, where would I be?” she said.

While providing spiritual comfort and prayer is the hotline’s main purpose, the chaplains are prepared to connect callers with local churches or resources to meet immediate needs—such as food or medicine—if the callers share their names and contact information, Knight said.

The SBTC DR chaplain hotline is one of several begun by nine Baptist state conventions in eight states thus far, including New York and California, he added.

SBTC DR task force member Daniel White provided technical assistance to help set up the New York hotline, Knight said.

While most calls have come from Texas, the hotline had received calls from as far away as Massachusetts and Florida from people who had seen news reports mentioning the number, Knight added.

Soon after the hotline was established, chaplain Dennis Parish fielded a call from a middle-aged woman from North Texas who had pre-existing health conditions that made her fearful of the virus.

“We began to talk. I asked her how I could pray for her. She was a Christian. She belonged to a Sunday school class. But she felt so isolated,” Parish recalled.

“I prayed that the peace that passes all understanding would just settle on her beyond that which she could comprehend,” Parish said, recommending the woman alleviate her isolation by phoning members of her Sunday school class to check on them and see how she could pray for them. 

“I can do that,” she said, brightening, finally ending the call with these words: “You have blessed me. You don’t understand how much this phone call means to me.”

“God takes turmoil and he makes good,” Knight said.